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Future for Socket 7

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), a rival of Intel, last week announced plans for a new chip to extend the life of the widespread Socket 7 interface that Pentium and Pentium MMX class chips use to plug into computer motherboards. Though Intel's latest processor family, the Pentium II, uses proprietary slots and technology that it will not license to rival chip manufacturers, AMD say their new chip, the AMD-K6 3D, will preserve and enhance the existing Socket 7 infrastructure and deliver a more powerful system for superior 3D multimedia, compared with any of today's x86 processors.

"In the first half of 1998 we plan to introduce the AMD-K6 3D MMX enhanced processor with initial clock speeds of 300 megahertz and moving to 350 megahertz," said WJ Sanders III, AMD chairman and chief executive officer. The technology will be licensed to competitors, as AMD believes in "open systems and open competition".

Sanders also unveiled AMD's plans to ship 15 million units in 1998: "If we achieve that goal, we will be well on the way toward establishing AMD as a credible alternative supplier of Microsoft Windows compatible processors and achieving a 30 per cent unit share in 2001."

Before that goal can be realised, however, current production problems must be solved. Last quarter's goal of 1.2 to 1.5 million units was not met, with only 1 million units being produced. "We have not completely solved the yield problems [percentage of usable processors emerging from a silicon wafer]," said Scott Allen, an AMD spokesman. "Our future depends on our ability to get .25 [micron technology] in full production."

Browser poll

A poll conducted among 11,000 PC World Online users found that 49.6 per cent of Netscape Navigator users who downloaded Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 said they will not switch to IE 4 as their permanent browser.

Nineteen per cent said they would switch permanently, with almost a third undecided. Half did not think the push technology offered was a benefit. More than 40 per cent did not subscribe to any of the channels offered, but among those who do use push technology, Microsoft Internet Explorer 4 (25.5 per cent) and PointCast (24.2 per cent) were favourite, and Netscape Netcaster were trailing with 16.3 per cent.

Elsewhere, Microsoft has stolen a march on Disney and Time Warner, which are making some of the best and latest entertainment content on their Web sites available only through newer versions of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser - a fresh twist to a phenomenon encountered in the past by Internet Explorer users refused access to pages authored by champions of Navigator.

Meanwhile, Microsoft posted a preview version of IE 4 for Unix on the Sun Solaris platform intended primarily for developers and network managers. The final version will be available early next year. IE 4 Preview 2 for Windows 3.1 and a Macintosh version were also posted last week. Final versions are due before the end of the year.

Sales of PCs in Europe rise

Compaq Computer Corporation improved its position as market leader in the sale of PCs in Western Europe, capturing 16 per cent of the market in the third quarter of the year, said a report from Dataquest last week. PC sales were better than expected, the report said, citing a return of consumer confidence as a key factor in the 16.9 per cent rise to 4.03m PCs sold compared to the same period last year. IBM retained second place, but its share slipped from 9.2 to 8.4 per cent.

One area with falling sales was direct selling via mail order and phone, with only Dell bucking the trend. "The direct channel is losing market share in Europe," said Steve Brazier, a Dataquest analyst. "Even Compaq tried this and made a mistake. Dell is doing well, but others, such as Gateway 2000, are failing."

Xerox brings colour home

Last week Xerox introduced the Document HomeCentre, the world's first full-colour, multi-function PC peripheral. The pounds 499 HomeCentre, which connects to the PC via a single cable, combines a detachable 24-bit 800x 800 dpi colour scanner, a colour copier, a 600x600 colour inkjet printer and full versions of professional software including optical character recognition and image editing. The inkjet prints on paper, transparencies, card, labels and iron-on transfers. "This is a great opportunity to deliver leading-edge technology to a market that needs it," said Stephen Flint, a business manager at Xerox Channels Group. "The HomeCentre is a great way for families to be creative, have fun and produce high-quality work."